Monday, July 27, 2009

Quite a weekend (give or take a day)

Here was a surprise on Wednesday - Riley was in the emergency room but not because of breathing issues. It was because he was sure that the back of his head was tougher than the corner of a wall. This picture, taken over the weekend, shows the two staples he ended up with.

Darci has been in the ER several times for a variety of injuries, but this was Riley's first trip involving something bleeding.

So naturally Friday he had to go back to his old ways - he started having breathing issues again. Both him and his dad had a bad cold and as usual, it resulted in a trip to the hospital. For those of you keeping count, this was his 11th trip (and he's not quite three yet!).

We brought him one of those 3D cartoons on a DVD and it came with stylish glasses. he thought they were fun but I'll bet there was no way he'd leave them on for the whole movie.

On Sunday Riley was released, only to be replaced by Darci, who in the mean time had also developed breathing issues from the cold. (She had been staying at Grandma Betty's for the weekend.) Darci did not end up staying in the hospital though - they let her go after observing her and taking an x-ray (she had some minor pneumonia). They both have masks on in this picture because both were coughing and had viruses - it was to protect others from them and not them from others.

Once we got Riley home, it was obvious he was feeling better.

I stayed home from work on Monday since I had not been able to do what I had intended to do over the weekend, such as give Idiot Dog Teddy a bath. Riley thought this was a fun process. IDT (and I) would argue otherwise.

There was a lot of time spent playing in the sandbox. It amazes me how much time they will spend in this thing not really doing anything, just moving sand around. I threw in a few pennies as "buried treasure" to make it more fun, but I think I'm the only one that gets a thrill when one is found.

Darci planted a shovel. And her legs (you can just barely see her toes peeking out).

Riley had finished with the sand box and was just hanging out. About that hair thing, apparently whatever Weird Haired Mom used to get it to stay that way would make an excellent car bumper - that hair has not been touched since Friday and still looks razor sharp.

OK, one last picture from today. I love how the two of them and Idiot Dog Teddy are in a standoff.

This picture is from several days ago. It makes my back hurt just to see it. I have no idea what Mrs Notthat was thinking. The grandkids better never expect that from me.

And finally, a picture of The Boy busy tinkering with his Jeep. He's been trying to work out where the engine is. (Kidding! He's actually trying to figure out how to wind it up to make it go.)

That's it - move along...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The grandkids get culture

A brave Mrs Nothat and a couple of even braver friends took the grandkids to the theater last night. The play was Honk, based on The Ugly Duckling.

The grandkids were excited on the way down to San Jose!

This is a bit before the play began. The woman on the right in blue is Sevein (not her real name), one of the brave "gal pals" who came along to help.

The grandkids in their seats along with Yram, the other gullible helper. Riley refused to look through the proper end of the binoculars. By all accounts, both kids were very well behaved during the production - which the parents of a number of older kids could not say. They were seated in the first row of the balcony.

Mrs said that at one point, the Ugly Duckling came towards the audience and asked "Where's my mother?" Riley stood up and pointed and said "Behind that wall!" (which caused many around them to laugh).

Darci posing with the Ugly Duckling's mother after the play. Riley was not interested in posing with any of the actors, and Darci would only pose with the good ones - not the mean ones.

Darci had fallen asleep for part of the play, but both fell asleep at about the same time that Mrs Notthat put the car in drive to leave the parking lot.

By all accounts the evening went great, even considering that the kids were up much later than usual and each had a massive cookie during intermission. Mrs even wants to do this again. And so do the grandkids.

That's it - move along...

PS: The Boy and I stayed home and watched Robin Hood: Men in Tights, a serious look at medieval England and class issues. With many crude jokes and dumb gags, as only a Mel Brooks movie would have. It was great!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Oakland goes up in flames

The Boy and I were wondering how many panicked 911 calls are made each night that the Fire Arts Festival is in action. There are a number of busy freeways that border the event and one would not have to be all that clueless to mistake a 30' tall kneeling female sculpture with flames pulsing from her heart (and occasionally from all over) for a situation requiring an emergency response.

(Of course I'm kidding! You'd have to be quite clueless! But in this clueless-infested land, that could still be a lot of calls.)

This was our second year of going to the Fire Arts Festival. We found out about this event from a coworker of mine that runs the extremely popular Flamethrower Shooting Gallery. This year the festival was moved to a much larger plot of sacrificial land, allowing additional art installations - some not even using fire at all but still inspiring awe. Because things are more spread out, it is not nearly as claustrophobic as last year. We went on a Thursday night, so it's possible it will be significantly more crowded on Friday and Saturday, but it still won't be that bad. There is also a large free parking lot you can use.

Taking pictures of a night-time event is a bit of a hit and miss proposition when using a PHD camera (Push Here Dummy), but some came out pretty good. (Note to anyone who is going and intends to take their fancy SLR camera - you need to get special permission.)

One of the most astonishing pieces of art is this Fire Vortex. If you look closely you can see a guy in a silver heat suit poking a long stick shooting a flammable liquid into a swirling wind caused by the scientifically placed fans.

This picture does not do this piece of art justice - the flames in each lobe of the heart are actually spinning like egg beaters.

This is the Hand of Man. There are two people sitting on that raised platform on the right that are controlling that large, fully articulated metal arm on the left. One of them wears a virtual reality-type glove to control the gripping of the fingers - it was fun watching them actually grab this motorcycle, lift it up, and then drop it. No flames for this, but an awesome display mechanical fun.

This is the Flamethrower Shooting Gallery, during the period where they train the audience members that are getting ready to shoot the flames. Last year this was voted the most dangerous of all the exhibits by the Oakland Fire Marshall, and he would not allow audience participation. Since nobody died last year (or at Burning Man - the only other place this exhibit has been seen), the Fire Marshall gave the OK to let normal people participate, as long as they are over 18. The Boy turns 18 in a couple of months. Heavy sigh.

The flames in action. They would prefer to use gasoline, but instead are only allowed to use a mixture of white gas and methane.

I love this sign at the flamethrowing place. it's not easy to read, but rule 2 says you cannot be drunk or stupid and rule 3 says they get to decide on the meaning of drunk and stupid.

This thing we had seen once before - it's a circular platform with sensors that, when tripped by someone waving their hand, foot, or head over it, causes a corresponding fountain of fire to shoot out. Kids really liked doing this, and some were pretty creative.

This was the coolest new thing there, called the Pendulum of Fire. Again, the picture does not do it justice. It is a ball with four flaming jets that is hanging from a curved arm. The operator controls which of the jets is flaming, and by fooling around with this a bit he gets it to swing in a graceful (but frightening) arc out over the crowd. Very cool.

Here The Boy is admiring a red hot glowing ant sculpture.

This is a 300 pound block of ice that is having a hole drilled through it. They then stand it up, shoot something flammable through the hole from the bottom to feed a flame up on top.

This is another flameless exhibit they added - a life size game of Mousetrap. It uses bowling balls for marbles and was fun to watch in action.

This guy, in a demonstration of just how dangerous morning breath can be, would take a swig of something from a bottle with one or more skull and crossbone logos on it, then spit it out at the torch he was holding.

Obviously, with all this fire around, they need to be prepared to fight any sort of blaze that might get out of control. It was comforting to see that this garden hose was what they would fight it with. I certainly feel better about attacking any sort of flames that might break out in our house.

And that's about it. Lots to see and do. There were quite a few kids running around - many of the exhibits were reasonably kid-friendly. There was also a stage with a mixture of talent on it (I swear at one point it was some guy singing Spanish love songs.) The weather was nice - calm and cool.

But with periods of intense heat.

That's it - move along...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tormenting the extremely jet-lagged

Mrs Notthat and The Boy came home from Germany yesterday. While in Germany they befriended two sisters from Arizona who were keen to see San Francisco. So Mrs invited them to stay with us and offered to put on her Travel Guide hat and show them around.

It's amazing how simple plans fail so easily.

As is my trademark, I got to the airport early. I parked in the garage (when parking garages charge by 20 minute increments you really don't want to be too early - unless you are me) and went up to the arrivals area. Cleverly they have a number of monitors set up so that you can see people escaping from customs a few seconds before they come through the doors. This allows people who are waiting for someone to not have to crowd around the door (which some people did anyway - the same people that push the elevator button 10 to 20 times, just to make sure).

An older British couple were standing behind me, and with almost every woman that appeared on the monitor, the husband would say "There she is!" and the wife would say "Are you kidding? That's not even close!" (The woman they were waiting for thankfully did show up, which seemed to surprise the wife a bit when the husband actually got it right.) There were at least four people that brought their dogs to greet the people they were waiting for. Idiot Dog Teddy would have had a blast, although security would have hustled me out of there within a minute or two.

So I waited and waited, watching a wide variety of people coming through the doors (many wearing face masks) and then I finally saw The Boy and Mrs Notthat.

I can't explain that face he is making - I probably caught him mid-yawn. Mrs was a site for sore eyes.

Mrs Notthat then spent a fair amount of time saying goodbye to some couple they met on the plane.

Finally we made it home. Everyone was very tired and wanted to just kick back and soak up some California rays. The guests, Ettezzil and Ahtnamas (not their real names - they are the two women in the center of the picture above) had tickets to fly out the next day at noon. A little bit of research brought bad news - changing the tickets for later in the week would cost $150 each (on top of their $15 bag fee and $10 armrest usage fee).

So they sighed, yawned, and decided that they would just have to leave the tickets as they were. It was only about 5 PM, so I asked if they would like to do a quick trip to the coast for dinner and at least a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. They were thrilled by the chance, so we all piled into the car and headed over to the coast.

We ate dinner at a place a bit north of Half Moon Bay called Barbara's Fish Trap. The sun was rapidly setting so we continued up the coast.

It was amazingly fog free along the coast, but it was not warm. This picture at the Pacifica beach was to show the sunset, but the hazy skies smudged out the sun.

Along the drive, they all took turns falling asleep. I felt bad for them and kept offering to go home, but they wanted to keep going. We drove up to the overlook on the north side of the bridge, but by then it was completely dark (although still fog-free). We drove down Lombard Street and then wandered around for a bit trying to find a freeway to get out of San Francisco. We finally got home a bit before 11 PM. There was lots of snoring by the time I pulled in the driveway.

It's great to have Mrs Notthat and The Boy home. They had a great time, even if the weather was less than ideal, and it appears The Boy does not have my anti-travel gene. Which makes Mrs Notthat very happy.

Ettezzil and Ahtnamas are by now safely huddled in front of their air conditioner in Phoenix, a bit disappointed that they were unable to extend their trip but happy that they at least got to see a bit of the coast. And I think Mrs even managed to get them to try some fried calamari.

They'll be back. And who really needs an armrest anyway.

That's it - move along...

Monday, July 13, 2009

How to survive a day of grandkids

With Mrs Notthat still over in the land of bratwursts and sauerkraut, I ended taking her turn watching the grandkids today. I met them at Stafford Park where Darci has a summer camp thing in the morning. Note the stylish cowboy boots that Riley is wearing.

Riley and I headed home for the morning. While I was looking for paper to make a "Welcome Home" banner for Mrs Notthat and The Boy, Riley sat in Mrs' chair, put on her glasses, and said "I'm Grandma!" Idiot Dog Teddy was not fooled for a minute.

After eating our first lunch, Riley and I headed back to the park to pick up Darci. Once we got home, I put them both in shorts and headed out to the garden. They picked several dozen cherry tomatoes - all of which Darci ate - and a lot of green beans, lemon cucumbers, and of course, lots of massive zucchini.

Note Darci's, umm, interesting hair. She told me this morning she didn't like it, but what she didn't like was the struggle to get it to look like that. Weird Haired Mom strikes again.

We have this sprinkler thing called a Scarecrow. It has a motion detector, and when it detects a critter, grandkid, idiot dog, or forgetful grandpa wander by in front of it, it shoots out water for a few seconds. The kids loved this thing, although they were more interested in getting each other wet than getting themselves wet. Darci was bold enough to try to run by in front of it and dodge the water, but always failed - this thing is really pretty good and managed to frustrate IDT after he accidentally got sprayed a couple of times. It was really hot out (in the 90s) so the water felt good. (Note: the drawback of the Scarecrow is that if it is breezy, the moving leaves can be interpreted as a 5-point buck, causing it to spray water a lot more often than necessary.)

We ate our second lunch and then had ice cream cones.

Darci spent a lot of time explaining her ice cream cone strategy to me. I believe the gist of it is to make it take as long and make as big of a mess as possible. Riley took a somewhat different approach, but got similar results.

After the ice cream had been tortured as much as possible, we headed inside to work on the banner while listening to the soundtrack from Cats (to which Darci knows most of the words).

WHM showed up about an hour early, which thankfully made my tour of duty a bit shorter than expected. It was fun but exhausting. Once I catch my breath I need to get to work straightening up the house. Mrs Notthat called to say she's bringing home a couple of friends with her so we will be having guests.

I hope they like zucchini.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Missing the Mrs and being a bit kneedy

Mrs Notthat and The Boy have been in Berlin Germany for the week. It sounds like they are doing fine. The weather has not been very nice (cool and rainy) and the food has been interesting, but they have been getting around fine and having a good time.

My initial plan had been to try to do something a bit ambitious at the house while they were gone. A project or two that would surprise them when they returned on Tuesday.

But I found it hard to be ambitious at the end of each work day. That didn't bother me much since I knew I would have the weekend to try to get something accomplished.

And then I played something vaguely like cricket at work on Friday. I work with a number of people from cricket-infested regions of the world, and they decided to try to form a cricket group. Out of the ten of us that showed up on Friday at lunch time, about half were familiar with the game while the other half (including me) had never held a cricket bat before and didn't know the difference between a bail and a stump.

We played on half of the tennis court, hitting tennis balls and using a couple of trash cans as the wickets. It was a lot of fun, although two of us ended up limping a bit off the court. In my case, I made an ill-advised lunge to stop a ball and aggravated my dodgy knee.

This has meant lots of ice and medications and resting this weekend. I did try to wash my car last evening only to find that it was sprinkling - we never get rain this time of year. (Later that evening it started raining pretty hard and I had to scramble to get The Boy's Jeep covered before it got too soaked. This is very weird weather for us.)

So I'm not going to get any ambitious projects done this weekend, and it will be interesting tomorrow when I have to keep up with the grandkids as I try to be Daddy Daycare. The knee felt a bit better this morning, so I did manage to get Idiot Dog Teddy a walk this morning, although it was not nearly as long or aggressive as he would have liked.

Hopefully the knee will be back to normal in a day or two and I can resume my walking training (I missed out on a 20K [11.8 miles] walk on Saturday). One thing I don't think I'll be doing though is working on my bowling technique - I think my cricket playing days are over.

For now. Maybe I'll just hang around the pitch and work on my sledging (trash talking) skills.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A fishy battle of the bands

We met up with Weird Haired Mom and the two grandkids in downtown Redwood City, home of a fairly ambitious Fourth of July parade, festival, and even in this year of economic badness, fireworks. (Several cities decided not to have fireworks this year, including the 11th largest city in the US - San Jose.)

The grandkids had each "won" a goldfish, plus a bonus goldfish for WHM! Darci named hers Goldie, Riley named his Goalie, and the last reports had WHM naming hers Ghoulie. The funny bit was that the first thing I said when I saw the fish was "Them's good eating!" - Darci turned to WHM and said "I told you he would say that!" It appears I'm a bit predictable. Later Darci handed me her fish so I could watch it while they went off for more adventure, and she told me "Do NOT eat my fish." I thought she was being funny, but I think she was serious and was really concerned I would eat the thing. (Without tarter sauce? I'm not a total barbarian.)

At one point they saw a guy with a couple of 30 foot pythons sitting in the shade and stopped to talk to him. Good thing the fish were hidden out of sight. (And no, I did not take a picture of the snakes. If they wanted a picture of them they should have brought their own camera - which WHM did and no doubt has a dozen snake pictures to show for it.)

And then the Battle of the Bands started - easily my favorite part of the day. The Stanford band, dressed in whatever weirdness they can find behind dollar store dumpsters (my favorite was a drummer wearing a Sarah Palin mask and a t-shirt that said "Too Soon?"), battles the UC Davis band, who all wear blue t-shirts and wacky hats. It is a very wide open "contest" with lots of unconventional goings on - more than enough to keep even short-attention-span-challenged grandkids entertained. At one point the Stanford Tree sat behind Riley and Darci and exchanged high-fives.

You know it's a good event if a yoga class breaks out.

Here a random sax player from Stanford gives Riley another high-five. (The kid's wrist must be sore today - he was a magnet for this sort of thing.)

My favorite part of the event is when the two bands get together. You never know what to expect, and it's obvious they have a lot of fun with this.

And as an audience member, it pays to be paying attention, or else risk being startled by a trio of brass instruments being played right behind your head.

This Stanford drummer worked with this random little girl (who appears to have some sort of horrible facial disease). His stick is not really bent - he was just so close that my iPhone's "lens" added a bit of distortion (our real camera's battery died early on).

These guys played for a bit more than two hours in the moderate heat, and rarely stood still while playing. Many of them, especially that Tree thing with that contraption he wore, must be in very good shape to get through this.

You may have noticed that The Boy has not been mentioned. That is because he had to work. Or actually won the right to work. The place he works at, Yffij Ebul (not its real name), held a lottery to see who would get to work on July Fourth since most wanted to get the time-and-a-half holiday pay. The Boy was one of the "winners" and spent the day changing people's oil. The obvious question is how many people think of July Fourth as the perfect day to get their oil changed. Quite a few, it turns out.

I remember as a kid that there were several holidays when you could count on nearly every store being closed, and July Fourth was right up there with Xmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Super Bowl Sunday. But no longer. While some stores may have had shorter hours, most appeared to be open and doing OK business. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I guess for those people that need to get a pedicure, a frozen rat, a new tea kettle, or clean oil in their car, it's a good thing. And if the employees actually want to work, who am I to argue.

And the snake in The Boy's room was really craving the rat.

That's it - move along...